Tuesday, June 21, 2016


I laughed aloud as she wired me up.

She was a petite woman of East Asian descent. Standing toward each other, she came below my chin. As I stood, arms stretched wide so that she could attach the monitors on straps around my chest, her arms seemed to hug me.

"Did I tickle you?" she asked.

"No," I said, "I just see the absurdity of it all. There's just no way that I'm going to sleep, tonight."

How could anybody with sleep problems get a good night's rest with electrodes glued to the scalp, with straps tightened around them, with wires up the pant legs? At home, a little bit of light seeping through the window and under the door, the glow of the electronic devices charging on night stands, distract me, make it hard to fall asleep. The tiniest of sounds stir me from light slumber.

I turn a lot in my sleep. It's like I'm on a rotisserie, laying first on my back, then on my right side, on to my stomach, over to my left side, and returning to my back. Over and over I turn, through the night, like I'm a hot dog, cooking on a heated, fast-food roller system.

The wires, I told the technician, are going to become wrapped around me until I find myself in an electric cocoon.

"It's okay," she assured me, "if it becomes a problem, I'll come in and fix you."

I feel pretty... oh so pretty...
Wired up, the technician helped me climb into the single bed. It was softer that my own. I turned down the top sheet, knowing that I would become overheated quickly. I'm a furnace. I lay on my back—my typical starting position. "This isn't going to work," I said.

"It's okay," repeated the technician.

She pointed out a lamp on the wall, asked me to turn it on. She turned off the overhead light and pointed out an intercom button. "If you need anything, press the button and I will come. If you want, you can read: when you feel tired and want to sleep, press the button and I will start the test."

She left me alone. I picked up the novel that I packed and began to read. All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. It's a great read, given to me for Christmas by one of my daughters because it's partially set in St. Malo, France, where we stayed one night on our vacation in 2014. The chapters are short, so I could easily read one and then gauge whether to continue through the next one or put the book down and turn in.

The technicians voice came through the intercom. "Hello, can you hear me?"

"Yes," I answered. She wanted to test the system.

Twenty minutes after, I figured it was about 10:00. I closed the book and pressed the intercom button, let the technician know that I was going to try to sleep. "Good night," she bid me. "Sweet dreams."

Yeah, right, I thought. I'm not going to sleep, let alone dream.

Typically, it takes about an hour for me to fall completely asleep. My head is full of thoughts. I hear things. The headlights from a car that has rolled past our house pans the room. The nerves in my feet and legs twitch as the weight of the sheets press on them.

With the lights off in the room, there was only a dim light that indicated the intercom button. A video camera, high up in the corner of the room, was ringed with several red-glowing dots. Apart from some initial murmuring somewhere down the hall, the room was silent. I sank into the mattress and closed my eyes.

Within minutes, I was asleep.

I had faint memories of moving onto my right side. Attempting to roll onto my stomach, the wires provided some resistance, and so I moved the other way, back onto my back. Later, I moved onto my left side, and onto my back.

I remember no dreams. I rarely remember dreams, and at that, only the bad ones.

Typically, I wake up several times at night. This time, when I awoke and checked the time (my smartphone was face-down, next to the book), it was 5:30. The technician had told me that she would wake me at 6. I closed my eyes and drifted again.

The awakening was cold. The overhead lights went on and the technician moved quickly to help me sit up. She wasted no time in removing all of the wires, in freeing me of my restraints. She steadied me as I stood up and directed me to the washroom, where I could freshen up and comb out the glue from my hair.

It was the best sleep I had in a long, long time. I felt rested, truly rested, despite being limited in movement. Having avoided sleeping on my stomach, having kept my arms below my head, my shoulders didn't ache, my fingers weren't numb.

I learned a few things from the sleep study: I need a dark, quiet room. I need to find a way to limit my movement. I need to sleep alone.

Perhaps, I should finally build that guest room in the basement, and reserve it for nights when I need a good night sleep. Because, since I've had the test, I haven't slept like that night.

1 comment:

  1. when i mangled my shoulder as a teenager i had to sleep with my arm at my side... no easy task for a stomach sleeper... i ended up tying a strip of towel around my elbow (loosely of course) and tying the other end around my torso... gave some range of motion but it prevented me from putting my arm above my head (or worse, sleeping with my head on my arm) nylons would probably be an even better solution as they have a bit of stretch... looks silly but it works :)